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IN MEMORY OF MARTIN KENYON
In Loving Memory of Martin Kenyon: Donate
Martin Kenyon. 11 Nov 1929 - 7 Sept 2022
We knew Martin as a faithful and long-standing supporter of TZABA, and a wise and encouraging member of its Committee for many years. Due to Covid and his aversion to newfangled things like computers and Zoom, we missed seeing him for the last two years. But it was Covid that brought him to the attention of people worldwide as a TV interview with him on 9 Dec 2020 as he was about to enter Guy’s Hospital as one of the first to receive vaccination went viral. He was receiving it he said, as he had no intention of dying now, after having lived so long, and was going to see his grandchildren for Christmas. He then turned to the interviewer (Piers Morgan) and said “and who are you?”. As people watched the interview more details of who Martin was were uncovered. Not just 91 years old at the time, but someone with a notable life story. Based in London, he died in Shropshire, where he was with family members, on the 7 September 2022 - the day before the Queen.
Martin’s mother had trained as a nurse and a missionary, his father was a decorated military man, and it was through this latter connection that he gained a scholarship to Eton. It was there in March 1945 when King George VI came to knight the Provost, that Martin was deputed to show the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret around. After national service in Germany, Martin went to study modern history at Corpus Christ College, Oxford. After a decade in various jobs, he emerged in the early 1960’s as a powerful advocate for overseas students’ rights . From 1962 to 1993 he was the Executive Secretary of the Overseas Student Trust, for which he was able to obtain considerable financial backing. Many students coming to the UK were able to benefit from its help - including, in 1962, Desmond Tutu, a married former teacher who had been ordained two years previously. Already a graduate, Desmond came to study theology at King’s College, London. Just days after his arrival in London, Martin contacted him and helped introduce him to the UK. They became permanent friends. When Mpho Tutu was born in 1963, Martin was invited to be her godfather (some years later when Martin’s elder daughter Eliza was born in 1977, Bishop Tutu, as he then was, returned the favour by becoming her godfather). Via Desmond’s son Trevor who was at school with him, Trevor Phillips also came to know Martin, and they too became lifelong friends. Desmond and his family returned to South Africa in 1966. In the same year Martin visited Chicago and stayed for a night with Martin Luther King. It was the year of King’s “I have a dream” speech.
Martin was also a powerful campaigner against the apartheid regime in South Africa, which led him to lobby the UK government. On one occasion in the 1980’s he was presented to the Queen at a garden party, who is purported to have said to him “I’m playing my part behind the scene too, Mr Kenyon”. He was involved too in other ways - looking to the future, he co-founded a multiracial school on the borders of South Africa in Mbabane, Swaziland, in the 1960’s. After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, Martin met him and “he gave me a good thump on the chest”, as a sign of appreciation.
Wider afield, in 2001 he was one of a group of former Corpus Christi friends who founded an education project for Sierra Leone after the rebel war there: “Knowledge for Sierra Leone”. The trust became part of the “Council for Education within the Commonwealth”, of which Martin was a director from 2002-2010. A firm believer in the value of the Commonwealth, he also had links with the Commonwealth Foundation, and on a personal note, I was privileged to have been invited by him to hear Terry Waite speak at the Foundation’s 2009 lecture (Archbishop Tutu was the original lecturer, but was unable to attend.)
We at TZABA have been very privileged to have had Martin as one of our supporters, and a member of our Council. We thank God for him, and pray God to multiply his love and peace upon him in the world to come.
A Service of Celebration and Remembrance at St Michael's Church, Stockwell on November 12th
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